Brisenia Flores Is Still Not Quite National News: Why?

Brisenia Flores_0df9d.jpg
We've written twice this week about the trial of Shawna Forde, a troubled anti-immigration crusader, who stands charged with first degree murder for the 2009 killing of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father in Arizona. Gina Gonzalez, Flores' mother, was also shot in the botched home invasion; she testified Tuesday about witnessing her daughter's death. And yet, despite the tragic narrative -- including its cursory similarities to the death of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green at the hands of Jared Loughner, also in Arizona -- plus the inclusion of other hot-button issues like immigration and extreme political discourse from groups like the Tea Party and Minutemen, which Forde identified with, much of the mainstream media continues to avoid the story of Flores' death. In this Friday edition of our media column, Press Clips, we'll examine why.

At the risk of sounding callous, the Forde trial has all of the ingredients of any salacious murder that receives nonstop media coverage. Allegedly, Forde, along with her accomplices Jason Bush and Albert Gaxiola, who are to be tried in the spring also on murder charges, broke into Flores' family home in Arivaca, Arizona thinking Flores, a suspected drug dealer, had a stash of $4,000 in cash. Forde, the prosecution claims, planned to rob the family and use the funds to support anti-immigration vigilante work aligned with the Minutemen group, who have since worked to distance themselves from Forde's extreme measures. In that alone, there's gripping subject matter: drugs, immigration and cash. And ultimately, the cold-blooded killing of a child.

Flores' mother Gina testified this week:

"He's all out of bullets because he used them on me and Junior and he stands there and he loads the gun right in front of her," Gonzalez sobbed. "I can hear her say 'Please don't shoot me."

But the only place for regular, reliable updates from inside the courtroom is the Arizona Daily Star's At the Courthouse blog.

Today, for example, come dispatches from the testimony of Oin Oakstar, a drug runner who has admitted to stealing marijuana from Flores in the past. On the stand, he said he was prepared to kill Raul Junior Flores, Brisenia's father, but never would have touched the Flores family:

Then, Shawna Forde and Jason Bush got involved, Oakstar said.

A couple days before the Flores' died, he turned down an invite to go with them to kill Junior and on the actual night of the murders Oakstar said he was at home with his girlfriend.

Again, to step back, this is the sort of drama media outlets search for far and wide. Here it is, with the chance to go deep into just a few of our nation's many problems, like race relations and even gun control.

But another search of the New York Times, the paper of record, today returns a results page like this:

Screen shot 2011-01-28 at 3.00.09 PM.png
The only article on the subject is still one from 2009. At CNN, it's the same.

There are a lot of possible explanations for the lack of coverage, not the least of which have to do with personnel and funding constraints. News organizations spread thin, attempting to cover two wars and international uprisings. But more cynical critics point to questions of race -- white alleged killers and brown victims -- or the media narrative of the Minutemen as merely a well-intentioned "neighborhood watch" group.

And perhaps the narrative comes with too many questions. How can we expect an audience to sympathize with a suspected drug dealer who put his family in jeopardy, an imaginary editor or producer might wonder. But the array of questions, of crime mystery and of more abstract morals and political values, are exactly what make this trial so rich for a reporter. The defense may even have a case: "Essentially, this case is a doughnut, a lot of circumstantial evidence all around," said Forde's attorney, Eric Larsen. It's ripe for an in-depth expose, and perhaps there's a New York Times Magazine feature in the making. It might not be a racial or political bias. But when two of the most major news outlets refuse to even acknowledge the existence of the trial, what else are we supposed to think?

That said, a few outlets are worth acknowledging:

The blog Crooks and Liars has been diligent in their coverage for over a year.

The Daily Beast also has someone reporting from the trial, noting right away, "Latinos are still wondering why the murder of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores raised none of the outcry of rancher Robert Krentz's killing, which fueled Arizona's tough immigration law."

And additional coverage appears from ABC News, the Daily Mail and the Los Angeles Times.

Clearly there's no such thing as justice when it comes to a crime of this nature, but as far as media attention goes, this doesn't even come close.

Previously: Brisenia Flores, Another Nine-Year-Old Girl, Was Shot and Killed in Arizona
Mainstream Media Continues to Ignore the Horrifying Murder of Brisenia Flores

[h/t Rohin Guha]

[jcoscarelli@villagevoice.com / @joecoscarelli]


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26 comments
Sandra Sandoval-Ortiz
Sandra Sandoval-Ortiz

Why aren't people paying attention? It matters not what color you are or from which country you hail... it is about justice. An article like this makes me shake my head and wonder what in the heck has happened to my fellow man?

Cathy Mullican
Cathy Mullican

Also, a female killer doesn't fit the expected narrative.

But, since none of the stories I've read mention whether Brisenia and her family were here legally or not, I don't think the media knows how to tell the story. Not that the murder is any less wrong if they were illegal, but I think it would affect the mainstream presentation.

Queens Crapper
Queens Crapper

Brisenia Flores' father was a drug dealer, her mother knew that, yet she had 2 young children living in the house with him. There is a "code" among drug dealers that killing each other is fair game. This was a risk whether or not Shawna Forde had come into the picture.

Richard Grabman
Richard Grabman

I would add one very good news source, Mexico Trucker (mexicotrucker.com) — run by a Juarez trucking company owner to provide information on cross-border transportation issues — and his more general borderlands site, immigrationclearinghouse.org, to your list of sources that have been following this story (in English) from the beginning.

Dolmance
Dolmance

It's because the handful of corporations that own and run the news business don't want to make the Republicans look bad.

pecador
pecador

Maybe the story would have been more newsworthy if it had been a home invasion of an Anglo family by Hispanics?

howiebledsoe
howiebledsoe

Cant believe nobodys ever heard of this before...meanwhile, the news is crammed full of the latest outbursts from Palin, Rush, Beck, etc...

Queens Crapper
Queens Crapper

This is why it's not mainstream news:

http://www.gvnews.com/news/art...

No one gives a shit about drug dealers and their kids getting killed. And "these people" being "mainstream in the Arizona anti-immigration crowd" is not true because Shawna was kicked out of the real Minutemen for her activities which is why she had to form her own group.

WTPRYOR
WTPRYOR

I just learned about this story today because someone posted oit to her Faced Book page. It is an amazing story, more so because the killers planed it in advance and apparently intended to kill everyone in the house... knowing that one of the occupants was 9 years old. Moreover, these people are pretty mainstream in the Arizona anti-immigration crowd.

susan
susan

The family was American. But to the MSM all Americans of Mexican descent are foreign and alien, so it doesn't matter. Do you see any Mexican-Americans working as anchors, reporters, or even pundits on any of the cable news chanels? Nope. A person born in Britain or the Middle East has a better chance of working as a journalist and/or commentator on American news channels than an American person of Mexican descent.

susan
susan

There is no evidence that the father was drug dealer. That's just what Forde said and what the prosecution is using to raise reasonable doubt. The police found no drugs in the home. As for the rancher, Krentz, nobody was ever arrested for his killing, so nobody knows for sure if an illegal immigrant killed him. As for why the MSM is not covering this trial, they rarely show Mexican-Americans unless they can depict them as criminals. They are never supposed to be sympathetic victims, or even Americans. They are always foreign, alien, illegal, and criminal. Anything that does not fit into that bogus narrative is ignored.

Leigh Williams
Leigh Williams

So what. So frickin' what. These animals shot a 9-year-old girl in the face and killed her. They shot her because she was brown. And you're going to try to minimize this horror because her mother might . . . might! . . . have used bad judgment? My God, that's despicable.

thepoliticalcat
thepoliticalcat

Exactly. It goes against the current meme, that's why it's not being reported. After all, who ever thought that drug-dealing Hispanics who might be illegal immigrants and were probably living in sin, too, would have to worry about crazed Anglos breaking into their homes to steal drugs and kill them and their children? That's NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THE NARRATIVE! (Sorry for yelling, I've been blogging about Brisenia and other victims too brown to earn the public's sympathy for a while now.)

Henry
Henry

Any time there is a discussion of race it is always a delicate subject.But I commend you,Susan,for your candidness and straight talk on this matter.It's refreshing to see that one can look past a person's race and call things the way they see it,the way it is.This is a tragic and heart wrenching story across the board,from the actual incident itself to the coverage,or lack thereof,by the mainstream media,which I believe is a crime within itself.May God bless you and the others who sided with you on this issue for your righteousness and fair-mindedness.

Thinker
Thinker

Are they Mexicans, or are they Americans? "Mexican-Americans" Which is it?

Queens Crapper
Queens Crapper

There is no evidence that the father was a drug dealer? Are you kidding? You obviously have not been following this case. I have repeatedly tried to post a link to a local news article and the VV won't allow it to be posted. The mother not only testified that the father was a drug dealer, but that one of the defendants had a dispute with him over drugs, which is why the trio believed they would find drugs and money in the house. Another witness testified that he was a known drug dealer and that the "dealer's code" called for his execution.

http://www.gvnews.com/news/art...

Queens Crapper
Queens Crapper

I am not minimizing the horror of her murder. I am explaining why it's not national news. And one of her murderers was also "brown" (her father's former drug dealing partner). Put it all together and it's not a completely heart tugging story for the media. Kids get murdered in this country daily. You only hear about a small percentage of them.

Heather
Heather

@ scholar...Actually John Quinones is Mexican-American!!

Scholar
Scholar

Quinones and Rivera are Puerto Rican, not Mexican.

Henry
Henry

Geraldo Rivera is also Jewish.

Marchenland
Marchenland

You do realize that Mexico is part of the Americas, right?

Oh, wait... no, you probably don't.

susan
susan

I read your link, and the wife never testified to that. It's Oakstar who makes that claim, and he is a criminal who made a deal with prosecutors. He may or may not be telling the truth, but who knows. As I said, the police found no drugs in the house or on the property. And let's be clear, this was not a drug deal gone wrong. Forde was motivated by racism and far right wing politics. She was involved with the Minutemen and with the racist organization FAIR. All of this talk about whether or not the father was involved with drugs is just a smokescreen to obscure the fact that these were race related killings. The only way to eliminate this sort of thing is to shine light on it, but the MSM is ignoring it because the Flores family are not what Chomsky calls "worthy victims."

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